There are plenty of questions surrounding the Washington Nationals in the final two months of the regular season. Can they hold off the red-hot Braves? Will they ever throw out another baserunner? Will they be able to make it once Stephen Strasburg is shut down?
Most compelling to me though is question: when will they let Teddy win a damn Presidents race? As you probably know, Teddy NEVER wins, but when is enough enough?
For those who do not know, the Presidents Races are more fixed than the WWE. The scripts are pretty simple: "Teddy, you find a new way to lose." The only thing more debated than the Strasburg shutdown plans these days is when the Nationals will Let Teddy Win.
The Outlook piece points out that Teddy will lose his 500th race on August 18th.
To me, the sooner Teddy wins, the better. It is a disgrace to the 26th President's memory. Anyway, no one ever listens to me. So my guess is that they will either wait until they clinch a playoff spot or host their first playoff game.
The bigger question is what the joke will be after Teddy wins? I'm glad I don't have to make those difficult decisions.
In this week's "Chain Reactions," we look at what the Redskins look to achieve in first preseason game and explore why the Nationals hitting the mute button,
Shorthanded 'Skins in First Dress Rehearsal
Wins and losses are meaningless this time of year. So what matters for the Redskins come Thursday night? Obviously coming out of the game healthy, but what else? Glad you asked. Here are the three areas I will be focusing on.
1. Get Robert Griffin III some reps, rhythm, and keep him clean. The offensive line is missing Jammal Brown (hardly a new story), Chris Chester, and Kory Lichtensteiger. The Bills recorded ten sacks against the Redskins last year in their regular season meeting.
RGIII had some rough days in practice this week, thanks to Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett throwing everything at the rookie. So, Thursday's game might feel like a break for Griffin as he will likely see "vanilla" looks from Buffalo's defense.
The goal for RGIII in his short time on the field is to move the chains, though scoring points would be nice too. You just want to see signs that he truly is going to be a franchise quarterback for years to come. It will be a building process week in and week out for Washington's offense.
The biggest concern is Griffin running for his life.
2. The 'Skins defense played much better in year two of Haslett's 3-4 scheme. Players and coaches expect even more improvement this season. It stands to reason, since the scheme should no longer be a foreign language to the players and they added more talent up front with a healthy and hungry Jarvis Jenkins.
This should be the Redskins' strength this season. So Thursday night, you would like to see a unit that creates havoc with pressure, turnovers, and big hits.
The downside on D is clearly the secondary. The back four will be under the microscope, with two safety positions up for grabs. Who stands out at that position? Will starters Brandon Meriweather and DeJon Gomes look the part, or will the door be open for Madieu Williams and Tanard Jackson? That safety battle begins to take better shape Thursday..
3. I'm not going to get caught up in the kicking battle quite yet. However, special teams will be a big focus for me Thursday night. In particular, can anyone unseat Brandon Banks as the primary returner? This talk of battles for the 5th and 6th wide receiver spot is swell, but those players will make their impact on "Teams" return and coverage.
This is where Banks, Terrence Austin, and Aldrick Robinson need to shine, especially with Anthony Armstrong sidelined this week. I still think someone needs to show something in these games to take Banks' spot. Let's see if someone steps up in Buffalo.
Nationals Not Listening to Outside Noise
Since the Expos moved to D.C., no one seemed to have much of an interest in them outside of the Nation's Capital, and you could argue that not many people here had much interest either.
This year, things are much different. The Nationals a hot topic on the national baseball shows. More specifically, the "decision" to shut down Stephen Strasburg at some point has become a hot topic.
A year ago, they shut Jordan Zimmermann down after he pitched 161.1 innings coming off Tommy John Surgery, and that news probably did not make the crawl on "SportsCenter." This year, the stakes are higher because of Strasburg's profile and the fact that the Nationals are in first place in the NL East.
Many of the talking heads in baseball completely disagree with the Nationals plan. GM Mike Rizzo could care less as he colorfully explained recently to my co-workers at ESPN 980 ( The Sports Fix). Dan Steinberg was good enough to write down the juicy stuff.
"I don’t really pay much attention to those guys," Rizzo said. "They have their opinions. And they’re ex-players, so they’re so-called experts. And they’ve got a lot of answers for a lot of things. But I’m the caretaker of this franchise and this organization.
"I’ve got the Lerner family that I have to report to, I’ve got the fans of Washington, D.C., that I have to report to and the players in that clubhouse that I have to report to. So I’m going to do what I believe is right for the franchise, not only for 2012 but for the long term. And if the national media don’t get it, then they’re not listening hard enough and they’re not paying attention.
"I know they’ve got a lot of other things to talk about. There’s 29 other teams. But here in town I think that people kind of see where we’re going. Not everybody agrees with the deal. Not everybody agrees with the deal in the clubhouse, probably. But we’re going to do what I think is right.
"For the time being, I’m in charge, and I’m gonna run it the way I believe is right for us, not only for the short term but the long term. Hey listen, the easiest thing for me to do would be to just run him out there every fifth day and win as many games as we can and hey, see what happens. But that’s not the right thing to do, and I’m not gonna do it."
This Nats fan, for one, agrees with Rizzo's plan, not that it matters. However, I have this conversation/debate over and over again with fans of other teams. They think the Nats are nuts.
What the out-of-towners are missing is our appreciation for the long-term approach instead of another quick-fix solution, which has been the norm in this town for too long. So do yourself a favor: use the mute button like Rizzo seems to be doing.